Antonio Liguori remembers leaving his meeting in Guilford in mid-March when word began to circulate that the state was essentially going to be shut down in a matter of hours.
It was unsettling news for everyone, especially Liguori, the president and broker of Calcagni Real Estate, which has offices in Cheshire, Southington, Guilford, North Haven and Wallingford. He knew things were about to change.
“We heard what was happening and immediately I said, ‘We have some things to talk about,’” Liguori recalls.
What he couldn’t have imagined in that moment was, while everything was shutting down around the state and country due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the housing market was actually about to heat up.
“In all honesty, I didn’t think we would have the amount of sales that we have had,” admitted Liqouri. “(The pandemic) created such a sense of urgency, with people saying, ‘I need to get a home right now,’ or ‘I need to get out of my home right now.’ … So many external factors all came together at once, it really became a perfect storm for the real estate business.”
Several factors are driving the new interest in the housing market, Liguori explained. One is an influx of out-of-state interest in moving to Connecticut. In New York, for instance, the virus has been much more widespread and deadly than what has been experienced in Connecticut, and recent civil unrest has driven speculation that many may be seeking to move out of urban areas.
Liguori confirmed that his office has been getting more and more calls from people looking to relocate and his team has begun to “reshape” the Calcagni website to specifically cater to their newest clientele.
Liguori explained that many people moving from a more urban community are looking for specific amenities, such as a pool, and he wants to make sure that Calcagni is attracting those buyers and highlighting which properties have exactly what the consumer is seeking.
“We want to specifically cater to people who may not know our (properties),” he said. “We are seeing (new inquiries) and we want to better facilitate those conversations.”
Another thing driving the healthy housing market is a new interest in home ownership being shown by millennials. Previously, the millennial generation had been notorious for choosing rental properties over homes, but the pandemic seems to have changed many minds.
“They (millennials) have been in apartment buildings, (with) all the amenities, no lawn, close to (retail and restaurants). But now, since they have been isolated for (a few months), we are beginning to see a bit of an exodus. It’s creating a buying unit that wasn’t there previously.”
Yet, just because there has been an influx of both buyers and sellers — “People sheltered in place may be realizing their house is too big, their house is too small, their house is too old,” said Liguori — agents have still had to adapt in order to meet the needs of clients under new restrictions.
One of the biggest changes has been in how Calcagni has had to introduce future home owners to properties. Previously, the best way to do that was to have an open house at a location and encourage as many people as possible to attend and look around. Now, with social distancing protocols in place, however, a new business model is in order.
“We had our photographers immediately begin to utilize (the platform) iGuide, which allows for virtual walk-ins,” explained Liguori. “We also implemented the use of videographers so we could provide a full walk-through of the property.”
The technology allows Calcagni to provide potential buyers with the basic experience of personally seeing a property without having to set foot inside. Doing so allows potential clients to determine which properties are of interest to them and which are not, limiting the number of people who actually visit a property to only those who already want to move further along in the process.
Liguori also explained that his agents are using Facebook Live to record informational videos about properties that can be saved and viewed at later dates. That way, if someone has an interest in a particular property, they can watch the video to see if it meets their preferences.
“If they see they don’t like the kitchen or the bathroom, then they don’t have to actually go to the property,” said Liguori.
Traditional open houses have begun again in Connecticut, but Liguori explained that it’s not something his company is “pushing” at the moment. Instead, Calcagni is working with other leaders in the industry to try and come up with specific guidelines that will help to keep people safe when attending future open house events.
Liguori envisions the open houses to potentially be by appointment, with attendees provided with proper PPE and sanitation materials. Also, most open houses will be “no touch,” Liguori imagines, so as to protect both the homeowner and homebuyer.
“We are not moving in that direction until we have everything ready,” he said. “We will do it when everyone is comfortable.”
Ultimately, Liguori stated, his number-one goal is to make sure that everyone involved in the home-buying experience at the moment feels comfortable and safe. Keeping people’s confidence in the housing market is important, Liguori believes, and doing so entails more than just “telling a story.”
“We have to show people that what we say, what we do, is what we believe in,” he said. “That’s how you build confidence.”
“Being in real estate is a great way to touch people’s lives,” he continued. “It’s usually, whether (buying or selling) … the biggest transaction of their lives. I believe, for Connecticut, we will continue to go in a positive direction, and if we keep supporting local businesses and keep supporting the community, we’ll be OK.”
For more on available properties or general real estate inquiries, visit https://www.calcagni.com/. Also, for an example of the iGuide tour, visit https://youriguide.com/141_victoria_dr_cheshire_ct.